Sorel Caribou Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Waterproof, warm, easy to put on, removable liner
Cons: Very heavy, large, sloppy fit, potential durability issues
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sorel Caribou is one of three Pac boots tested in this review, with the others being the Kamik NationPlus and Kamik Greenbay 4. We like each of these models, and each has their advantages and disadvantages. In general, Pac boots are very comfortable and offer a spacious, sometimes sloppy, fit. They have the advantage of having a removable liner that allows you to dry them out quickly should you sweat too much, or get snow or water inside of them. We found the Caribou to be the warmer and more waterproof boot when compared to the other options, but also noticed that it wasn't the most economical, comfortable, or grippiest on slippery surfaces.
The Pac Boot style construction of these boots means their warmth comes from the 9mm thick ThermoPlus felt inner boot. Upon first inspection, after removing it from the boot, we were a little disappointed at the thickness and the opening of the tongue of this inner liner. We reserved judgment, however, until after testing, figuring that these boots wouldn't have been around so long if they hadn't gotten something right. Turns out they are plenty warm, among the warmest in our ice bucket test.
They were just a tad warmer than the other Pac Boots tested. Our experience is that cinching the front of the boot tight with the laces closes up the front opening of the liner, allaying our concerns about that opening. That said, we are not sure that these boots can handle -40F all day, although we admit it never got cold enough to test this. There is room for a thick sock, which we recommend if it is truly numbing cold outside.
The Caribou keeps water, slush, and snow at bay with a very effective molded rubber sole that extends up around the foot creating a bathtub of sorts. The upper is a treated Nubuck leather that also resists water quite well, beading off water even after the full 8-minute ice bath immersion test. Since there is no inner membrane like found on many winter hiking boots, they rely heavily on the outer boot. This means that an annual treatment of the Nubuck material will help them repel water longer. There is no doubt that these boots are more waterproof, and because of their 10.5-inch stack height and full height tongue, they have one of the highest ratings for water resistance in this review.
We found the water resistance of the Caribou to be among the best in our test. The other Pac style boots we tested are highly water resistant but leaked at the seam between the nylon upper and rubber lowers of the boot when submerged in water. Considering the fact that it has no waterproof membrane, we are very impressed by the Caribou.
Fit and Comfort
We hesitate to say that these boots are uncomfortable because their super large and spacious fit guarantees that statement would be false. There is no doubt, however, that these are among the worst fitting boots in this review. The problem is that they are gigantic, both in the fit inside the boot, and the design of the boot in general. Even with a very thick sock on, there is so much foot slop and movement inside this boot that we would consider sizing down. No amount of cranking the laces down is going to cinch up this boot to make it feel snug. The room on the inside isn't the only problem, the whole boot is just huge.
We also can't get over how heavy they are. At 5 lbs. 5 ounces for a pair of size 11 men's boots, these are almost a full pound heavier than the second most substantial boots, and over two pounds more than the average winter hiking boot. The sloppy fit, large design, and hefty weight guarantee that this is not a boot we would want to spend any time hiking around in. Limited to shoveling, chopping wood and running errands, this is a niche boot model.
Ease of Use
For a boot that has laces and needs to be tied, this one is fairly simple. The very large opening of the boot makes it very easy to slip the foot into, and we admit that on a few cold mornings we were happy to just leave the laces untied while stepping outside with the dog for the morning routine. The large metal grommets allow the laces to slip through very easily, and these boots cinch tight no problem with one pull. Of course, you still need to tie the laces, but that isn't difficult. In general, these boots are slightly easier to get on than other Pac Boots, and are easier than virtually all of the other boots that have laces.
The Caribou features a proprietary rubber compound called Aerotrac, and the sole pattern is made up of small dot-shaped lugs that look more like golf cleats than the burly soles we are accustomed to. The low profile lugs perform best when on slippery surfaces such as icy sidewalks, where increased surface area make the boot grippier. For most other circumstances, however, traction is not one of these boot's strongest traits.
We found that it is nowhere near as good as the boots with the grippiest winter rubber compounds. While it is predictably a bit slippery on ice (all of the boots tested struggle on ice), what surprised us is how it seemed to perform worse than most on snow and packed snow. We would have to blame this on the roundness of the lugs, which to us doesn't make a lot of sense, as sharp edges that bite into snow seem to be the best designs.
This boot retails for about average for the contenders in this review. It is a bit more limited than some of the other boots at this price, and we already voiced concerns about the durability of the rubber used in the lowers, although we repeat that we didn't encounter that problem ourselves. Also worth pointing out is that the other Pac boots scored comparably in most of our tests, and cost about half as much. So while we wouldn't go nearly so far as not to recommend this boot, we would be happier if we managed to find it on sale.
The Sorel Caribou has been around for the past 50 years and is many people's definition of a snow boot. The design concept is solid, and while we feel that it is not a suitable candidate for long winter hikes, it is an overall good winter boot that provides great warmth, weather resistance and is easy to use. It will fit the needs of many people looking for a quality boot to see them through the winter and with a classic style.
— Ryan Huetter & Andy Wellman